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Jacks Top Warriors in Classic Battle

It’s a Sweet 16 for the Lumberjacks, but it was far from easy.

Joe Dotterwiech was named the WNYAthletics Player of the Game as he rushed for 160 yards and scored three touchdowns as North Tonawanda beat Tonawanda 41-18 in the 107th T-NT Football Classic that was played at Clinton H. Small Stadium, Friday night.

The marked the 16th consecutive victory for the Jacks over the Warriors in their rivalry, but the final score doesn’t do the game justice as it was one of the most evenly played games in T-NT history.

“It feels amazing,” said NT senior Alex Johnson. “There’s just nothing like this week. Living in NT. Just the whole week in general for both schools, but living in NT 15, 16 years we’ve been on the good side of it. The whole week preparing for it. The practices, the (spirit week) events-just coming out and getting the ‘W’ tops it off.”

The win was the perfect capper to a memorable week for the Jacks, but again, both sides will say the final score does not reflect how close the game was until the final six minutes. In the days leading up to the game, Tonawanda coach Joe Kelly appropriately used the David verses Goliath analogy to compare his Class B team facing the larger Class A Jacks. And, like David, Kelly felt he had ‘a rock’ that could take the giant out. While most thought that secret weapon would be senior running back Brandon Roe who is new to THS, the ‘rock’ that almost toppled NT was senior quarterback Zach Sajdak.

Sajdak, who passed for 150 yards and a TD, also rushed for 173 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run that pulled the Warriors within reach, 27-18, with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter.

Entering the game the Warriors knew full well that NT had seen two winnable games slip away in the second half this season. So Tonawanda hung it’s hopes on that if they worked hard and caught a break or two, they could exit with the win.

The Warriors did get those chances, but it didn’t translate to points when they were needed most.

Tonawanda’s Gavin Kirkwood recovered an onside kick to begin the second half, but the Warriors turned the ball over on downs. Chris Labonte (118 yards rushing) would score on NT’s next possession to extend the lead to 27-12.

Trailing 27-18 early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors appeared to have gained a crucial first down at midfield after an unplanned fake punt. But placement of the ball saw the Warriors fall short of the first down marker.

“They played harder than they have all year. And you know what, it’s expected,” said Kelly. “I just hope our next two games they play as hard.”

Ethan Shattuck, who got Tonawanda on the board with a touchdown pass from Sajdak in the second quarter, said that even though everyone was disappointed over the loss, they can take away pride in knowing that this was the most complete team effort of the season. And it all started with a 100% commitment during the week of practice leading up.

“Honestly, that was one of the best team games we’ve ever played,” said Shattuck who also had 12 tackles. “Even though we lost, it doesn’t matter, that was probably the hardest (working), most exciting game of the year. That was also the game we played together. We had the best week of practice. Everyone showed up. No one skipped, no one came late. Everyone was here. We stayed late. Best team game by far.”

Woodard, who had 11 tackles on defense, scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown on a 55 yard run that would help NT take a 21-12 lead into the locker room at halftime. “That scoreboard may say that it was a blowout, but it was a close game all the way,” Zack Woodard said. “Tonawanda put up a huge fight. They’re coach, coach Kelly was our (assistant) coach for three years (2012-14). So that was good to play against him, handshakes were fun. It was just a bittersweet moment walking off the field one last time after T-NT

Fourth quarter TD’s by Marcellus Overton and Dotterwiech gave NT the 41-18 win.

Brandon Roe’s touchdown with 2:04 left in the first half gave Tonawanda a boost, 21-12. And Bryan Barker’s pick of Woodard in the waning moments of the half made WarriorNation believe this was their team’s night. But the Jacks would not let this one slip away.

“It was a great football game and when we came into the half the guys seemed kinda down,” said NT coach Henry Fumerelle.

“I said guys, we’re up by two scores. Just take one play at a time and focus on that. Don’t worry about the score. Scoring 80 points and all that. Just take it one play and a time and that’s what we tried to do and tried to focus on.”

Jason Fraziar had eight tackles for Tonawanda and Aaron Simonds added another 10. Pat Milbrand had eight tackles for the Lumberjacks.

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